Patagonia: Puerto Madryn

Arriving in Puerto Madryn after surviving our 24-hour bus journey from El Calafate was like a breath of fresh air. The Atlantic Ocean was sparkling in the late afternoon sun as our taxi driver transported us to our home for the next four days. La Posada Hotel is a fancier place than we typically frequent, but thanks to a special online offer we booked it and subsequently jumped for joy when we arrived because it was so clean and spacious.

We later figured out that we had been upgraded into a bigger room though we’re not sure why… but I’m guessing it had something to do with the Bus Gods feeling sorry for us….


Beaches and Wildlife 

It’s easy to see why so many Argentinians visit Puerto Madryn. It’s only a two-hour flight south from Buenos Aires which makes for a quick and easy getaway to the beach. It’s also the gateway to Peninsula Valdez and Punta Tombo, where people book tours to see penguins, sea lions, killer wales, elephant seals, guanacos, and many species of birds. Harry and I had an incredible visit to Punta Tombo where we spent the afternoon hanging out with the largest Magellanic penguin colony in South America.

We spent the rest of our time in Puerto Madryn exploring the city, happily trading in our fleece jackets for short sleeves and sunscreen. We borrowed bikes from our hotel twice and had fun zipping around town, dodging cars and avoiding as many dirt roads as we could. Of course we had to sample some of the ever-abundant sweet treats as well (Harry is basically addicted at this point). We also took advantage of the hotel’s speedy wifi to do more trip planning.


Onward Ho!

Feeling relaxed and rejuvenated we said goodbye to the delightful staff at La Posada and took a taxi to the bus station. Yes, the bus station! But don’t worry — our trip west to Esquel across Patagonia was only a mere nine hours long.


Patagonia: Our 24-Hour Bus Ride

We celebrated our two month anniversary of being in Argentina by hopping onto this fancy yellow double-decker sleeper bus for a 24-hour ride across Patagonia! Our destination was Puerto Madryn on the Atlantic Ocean. We were on a quest to see penguins!


Are We Crazy?

I was really excited to see penguins, even though it meant that we had to take a 24-hour bus trip east and north across Patagonia. Puerto Madryn is the gateway city to Punta Tombo, home of the largest Magellanic penguin colony in South America. We were both excited and a little freaked out to embark on such a journey. Were were crazy? Would we survive?

First Class, Please

We were consoled and somewhat empowered by the information we’d read and heard from other travelers. Many people take loooong bus rides and they always seem to survive. The big travel buses have two options: semi-cama seats (seats that somewhat recline) and cama seats (seats that recline flat into beds). Additionally, with paying the higher price for the sleeper seats you’re supposed to get movies, food service, nice bathrooms and an attentive host. It was a pretty easy decision for us to pay more and book the first-class experience.

What Really Happened

We boarded our big, shiny yellow bus at 4:00 PM with visions of smooth travel in our heads. Quickly reality came crashing down. Not only was the bus filthy dirty (as in crumbs all over the seats and floor and garbage littering the aisle) but our seats didn’t recline fully! Panic settled in as the bus began its journey because we knew there wasn’t anything we could do about it. Over the course of the 24-hour trip we didn’t get to watch any movies (the tv was about to fall off the wall), there wasn’t any food service expect for a cookie and instant coffee for breakfast, and the bathroom was a disgusting closet of skank and vile. Our fancy bus fantasy was shattered.

Mind Over Matter

Somehow we survived and honestly it wasn’t as horrible as we thought it would be. We both pretty much checked-out and went into autopilot mode. Always one to be prepared, we ate the snacks we brought so we didn’t go hungry. I was born blessed with the gift of sleep so I quite literally slept for 20 hours. Unfortunately Harry doesn’t sleep well no matter where he is, so he was quite literally awake for 20 hours. Poor guy — this is what he saw looking out the window for the entire boring trip across the desert of Patagonia:


I Need to Move! 

The hardest part for both of us was the lack of movement we experienced in 24-hours. The seats were actually large and quite comfortable (more so than on an airplane), but sitting and semi-reclining for so long is just plain torture! The bus stopped a few times along the way so the drivers could switch and get coffee, etc, but since there weren’t any announcements made I was afraid of being left behind. Once the 24-hours were up we had only gotten off the bus four times!

Motion Sickness

Armed with my ever-faithful Queeze-Free wristbands, I am happy to report that I didn’t suffer from motion sickness at all. I even had Dramamine at the ready but I didn’t need to take it. I consider this to be a successful trip.



Thank heavens for cameras and self-timers to record important historical events like this.


IMG_5614 Puerto Madryn

After 24-hours of dry, brown, boring desert scenery imagine how excited we were to see Puerto Madryn off in the distance! The blue Atlantic Ocean never looked so good! There was even a friendly penguin at the bus station reminding us why we embarked on such a journey. We couldn’t wait to visit all of his friends in Punta Tombo!


Patagonia: El Calafate

Our four days in El Chalten were great but we were ready to explore more of southern Patagonia. We waved adios to the little village through a haze of clouds and drizzling rain and boarded a bus for the three-hour ride down to El Calafate.

South B+B

We arrived in the middle of the day to blue skies and big clouds. Our hotel was located a short ten minute walk above town and the views of Lake Argentina, even from our bedroom, were amazing! Andrea, Javier and their three dogs (!) were wonderful hosts and we recommend staying at South B+B the next time you’re in town.


El Calafate

A tourist town located a few hours away from the big mountains, ice fields and glaciers, El Calafate definitely feels touristy along the main street. Living above town for a week gave us a different and more local perspective. We walked around daily exploring different parts of town, seeking local flavor. We found a cemetery, the El Calafate futbol stadium, and a rodeo arena. We got a kick out of watching a gaucho (cowboy) drive a herd of horses across the edge of town. Much of the landscape is rugged and dry but newer looking homes actually have grass yards, and we were surprised to see so many rose bushes in bloom. There is a wonderful walkway all along the lake with a well established nature preserve.


Outdoor Adventures

Patagonia is a huge region with an incredibly diverse landscape. With that said, access into the Glacier National Park is difficult. In El Chalten it was possible to walk out your door and be on a trail in five minutes, but here it’s different. In El Calafate most access points are over an hour away and you need to pay a tour group to transport you there and host your excursion, unless you rent a car. Our big adventure was centered around the phenomenal Perito Glacier, an activity I’ll not soon forget!

Lago Argentina

We couldn’t get enough of this gorgeous lake! We looked at it, walked along it and dreamed about it all week. If I were a black necked swan I would definitely want to live here, too!


Patagonia Effect

You might recall how excited we were that Harry’s leg/foot were in great working order for three days in El Chalten. We were hopeful that the Patagonia Effect would stick around for awhile, but I’m sorry to say that’s not the case. The day we arrived in El Calafate his gait went back to its old habits. We sure do appreciate all of the shout-outs and words of support you’ve been sending our way. While we’re hopeful that the Patagonia Effect returns, in the meantime we’re still on the move. Nothing is holding us back.

What’s Next? 

We just recognized our two month anniversary of being in Argentina. To celebrate this special day we hopped onto a big double-decker sleeper bus for a 24 hour ride (repeat: a 24 hour ride!) northeast across Patagonia. Rest assured I will be blogging about our trip at some point. [Teaser alert: we survived] Puerto Madryn, situated on the Atlantic Ocean, is the gateway to Punta Tombo. We’re on the search for penguins!